100 books like Shaka Zulu

By E.A. Ritter,

Here are 100 books that Shaka Zulu fans have personally recommended if you like Shaka Zulu. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Washing of the Spears: The Rise and Fall of the Zulu Nation

Gareth Williams Author Of Serving Shaka

From my list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied the history of sub-Saharan Africa at the University of Cambridge. Study revealed to me how complicated was the region and how contested the history of a place and people could be. I'm a white man with a love for southern African history. There are white Africans. The history of the continent is their history too. But the preponderance of records were created by white writers, until relatively recently, and this always threatened to obscure the Black experience, Black actions, Black history. In Shaka Zulu, I found a character who wasn't reacting, on the whole, to external actions, but forging a Black empire, a Zulu empire, as the result of internal forces and experiences. 

Gareth's book list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

This is a big book, thoroughly researched but accessibly written. Morris has a military background and sees things from a strategic perspective. He wrote this book at almost the same time as Ritter’s biography of Shaka but his focus was subtly different. He seeks to evaluate not just Shaka’s nation-building but what followed, most especially the Anglo-Zulu war that culminated in the destruction of the Zulu military at Isandhlwana. As such, this book serves as a perfect companion piece to Ritter’s work. I enjoyed the immersive nature of Morris’s account as it spanned most of the nineteenth century. It gives telling insights into the British Empire’s strengths and weaknesses and does the same for the Zulu state that built on Shaka’s innovations. This book helped me set Shaka’s story in a wider context and for that alone it deserves a place on this list.

By Donald R. Morris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Washing of the Spears as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Filled with colourful characters, dramatic battles like Isandhlwana and Rorke's Drift, and an inexorable narrative momentum, this unsurpassed history details the sixty-year existence of the world's mightiest African empire,from its brutal formation and zenith under the military genius Shaka (1787-1828), through its inevitable collision with white expansionism, to its dissolution under Cetshwayo in the Zulu War of 1879.


Book cover of The Diary of Henry Francis Fynn

Gareth Williams Author Of Serving Shaka

From my list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied the history of sub-Saharan Africa at the University of Cambridge. Study revealed to me how complicated was the region and how contested the history of a place and people could be. I'm a white man with a love for southern African history. There are white Africans. The history of the continent is their history too. But the preponderance of records were created by white writers, until relatively recently, and this always threatened to obscure the Black experience, Black actions, Black history. In Shaka Zulu, I found a character who wasn't reacting, on the whole, to external actions, but forging a Black empire, a Zulu empire, as the result of internal forces and experiences. 

Gareth's book list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

I discovered Fynn’s edited diary when I was researching my own novel, as Fynn was a character I wished to include in my historical novel. He was one of the very first white settlers of the Natal region of what became South Africa. Remarkably, he became a confidant and adviser to Shaka and kept a diary that covers 1824 to 1836. It proves a useful record of the physical and political state of the region and its customs. Most tellingly, it is an eye-witness account of Shaka at a time when he is extending his hegemony over the region. I love the fact that the man writing these words actually spoke with Shaka, a man known to us by a single-line drawing. While Fynn is, quite clearly, imbued with the attitudes of his time, his diary proved to me how valuable first-hand accounts can be in piecing together and…

Book cover of The Anatomy of the Zulu Army: From Shaka to Cetshwayo, 1818-1879

Gareth Williams Author Of Serving Shaka

From my list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied the history of sub-Saharan Africa at the University of Cambridge. Study revealed to me how complicated was the region and how contested the history of a place and people could be. I'm a white man with a love for southern African history. There are white Africans. The history of the continent is their history too. But the preponderance of records were created by white writers, until relatively recently, and this always threatened to obscure the Black experience, Black actions, Black history. In Shaka Zulu, I found a character who wasn't reacting, on the whole, to external actions, but forging a Black empire, a Zulu empire, as the result of internal forces and experiences. 

Gareth's book list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

This is a serious piece of research recounted in an easily readable form. Ian Knight chronicles the historical context within which the Zulu military complex evolved. He outlines the effects it had on Zulu society. He examines the customs, the development of weapons, and concomitant tactics that allowed a small clan to grow into the dominant power across a vast swathe of southern Africa. Knight details military life and lists all known regiments and commanders. While this book satisfies a purist’s hunger for detail, it never fails to be informative and interesting for the more casual reader. I enjoyed it for the details that proved so useful to the writing of my own novel but I also admired it as an example of how to write a scholarly work without excluding the layman.

By Ian Kinght,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Anatomy of the Zulu Army as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forces of the independent Zulu kingdom inflicted a crushing defeat on British imperial forces at Isandlwana in January 1879. The Zulu Army was not, however, a professional force, unlike its British counterpart, but was the mobilized manpower of the Zulu state. Ian Knight details how the Zulu army functioned and ties its role firmly to the broader context of Zulu society and culture. The Zulu army had its roots in the early groups of young men who took part in combats between tribes, but such warfare was limited to disputes over cattle ownership, grazing rights, or avenging insults. In the…


Book cover of The Zulu Aftermath: A Nineteenth-Century Revolution in Bantu Africa

Gareth Williams Author Of Serving Shaka

From my list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I studied the history of sub-Saharan Africa at the University of Cambridge. Study revealed to me how complicated was the region and how contested the history of a place and people could be. I'm a white man with a love for southern African history. There are white Africans. The history of the continent is their history too. But the preponderance of records were created by white writers, until relatively recently, and this always threatened to obscure the Black experience, Black actions, Black history. In Shaka Zulu, I found a character who wasn't reacting, on the whole, to external actions, but forging a Black empire, a Zulu empire, as the result of internal forces and experiences. 

Gareth's book list on Shaka, founder of the Zulu nation

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

This was a controversial book when I was studying southern African history at university. What became known as Africanist historians were challenging the ability of white researchers to write objectively about Africa. Not least, they claimed the dominant narrative was almost entirely written from a white perspective in which Black actors were portrayed as little more than pawns. Omer-Cooper took as his subject those Black Africans, most especially those occupying what we know as South Africa. But he sparked another academic controversy. He described the Mfecane, the displacement of peoples sparked by the emergence of the Zulu state. His critics, most notably Julian Cobbing rejected this view. They pointed to the growing demand for slaves, largely driven by white traders and assisted by British military forces, as the true cause of the upheavals of the period. I was thrilled to follow the exchanges between these two historians in the journal…

By J.D. Omer-Cooper,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Zulu Aftermath as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A detailed history of the 19th-century Zulu expansion in southern Africa, and the ongoing impact of that movement on the region, with chapters on the Swazi, Ngoni, Basuto, Ndebele, and more.


Book cover of Terrific Majesty: The Powers of Shaka Zulu and the Limits of Historical Invention

James Oliver Gump Author Of The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

From my list on the rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor emeritus of history at the University of San Diego, and taught courses in African and South African history for over three decades. I have also written a number articles placing African topics in comparative perspective, including “A Spirit of Resistance:  Xhosa, Maori, and Sioux Responses to Western Dominance, 1840-1920” and “Unveiling the Third Force: Toward Transitional Justice in the USA and South Africa, 1973-1994,” as well as three books: The Formation of the Zulu Kingdom in South Africa and two editions of The Dust Rose Like Smoke: The Subjugation of the Zulu and the Sioux

James' book list on the rise and fall of the Zulu kingdom

James Oliver Gump Why did James love this book?

Hamilton offers a thought-provoking monograph on the persistence of Shaka as a metaphor in South African history and politics and the changing representations of the famous Zulu king over time. Hamilton argues that the image of Shaka, contrary to most post-modernist interpretations, was not simply a colonial invention. Instead, she argues that Shaka’s image gained its durability and complexity from a mix of indigenous narratives as well as colonial ones.

By Carolyn Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Terrific Majesty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since his assassination in 1828, King Shaka Zulu-founder of the powerful Zulu kingdom and leader of the army that nearly toppled British colonial rule in South Africa-has made his empire in popular imaginations throughout Africa and the West. Shaka is today the hero of Zulu nationalism, the centerpiece of Inkatha ideology, a demon of apartheid, the namesake of a South African theme park, even the subject of a major TV film.

Terrific Majesty explores the reasons for the potency of Shaka's image, examining the ways it has changed over time-from colonial legend, through Africanist idealization, to modern cultural icon. This…


Book cover of A History of South Africa

Kenneth P. Vickery Author Of The African Experience: From "Lucy" to Mandela

From my list on Southern Africa as picked by a historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

For fifty years I have studied and taught the history of Africa, which  makes me about the luckiest guy around.  My focus has been on Southern Africa, and especially Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.  Aside from the fantastic physical beauty, the region attracts because of the comparability of its history and experience with that of the United States at many points:  for instance, a colonial past, systems of slavery, and fraught [to say the least] racial dynamics.  I have enjoyed 23 journeys or lengthier sojourns in Southern Africa, and have taught at five universities, including North Carolina State, Duke, and the University of Zimbabwe as a Fulbright Lecturer.

Kenneth's book list on Southern Africa as picked by a historian

Kenneth P. Vickery Why did Kenneth love this book?

Okay, he was my dissertation advisor. Sorry! But Thompson’s is a concise, perceptive, and readable one-volume history of the great country, a splendid introduction. Born and raised in South Africa, the late Thompson was a Rhodes Scholar before seeing extensive service in World War II. Like so many talented South Africans from many fields, he went into exile around 1960 when the apartheid regime moved toward a no-holds-barred stranglehold on all opposition. This was his last book, and in it he distills a lifetime of research, teaching and experience. The fourth edition has an update and new preface by Lynn Berat.

By Leonard Thompson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A History of South Africa as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fresh and penetrating exploration of South Africa's history, from the earliest known human inhabitation of the region to the present

"I did not think it was possible for a white person to write a history of South Africa which a black South African would find to be a fair and accurate account of a beautiful land and its people. Leonard Thompson has disabused me of that notion. His is a history that is both accurate and authentic, written in a delightful literary style."-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The Fourth Edition of this classic text brings South Africa's history up to date…


Book cover of Zulu With Some Guts Behind It: The Making of the Epic Movie

Ian F.W. Beckett Author Of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift

From my list on Zulus and the Zulu War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Honorary Professor of Military History at the University of Kent, having retired from teaching there in 2015. I have held professorial chairs in both the UK and the US. Most of my books have been on the history of the British Army, including on the First World War and, especially, the late Victorian Army between 1872 and 1902. Like others of my generation, I was greatly influenced by the 1964 film Zulu with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. The Zulu War has always fascinated me so here is my selection of the best books on Zulus and the war.   

Ian's book list on Zulus and the Zulu War

Ian F.W. Beckett Why did Ian love this book?

Who could resist a full account of the making of Stanley Baker’s 1964 epic? From the genesis of the idea through the evolution of the script, production in South Africa and Britain, the premier, and the reaction to the movie, this is a must-have book for all fans of the film. Hall mined film archives and interviews with the actors and filmmakers to reconstruct the story of the film. It is copiously illustrated in colour as well as black and white with location photographs, posters, and cartoons. A particular highlight is the exploration of ‘myths, gaffes, and spoofs’.   

By Sheldon Hall,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zulu With Some Guts Behind It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shipped from UK, please allow 10 to 21 business days for arrival. Very Good, A very good, clean and sound copy with dust jacket. Zulu: with some guts behind it: the making of the epic movie. 431 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 25 cm.. . Includes bibliographical references (p. [415]-419) and index.. .


Book cover of The Rise & Fall of the Zulu Nation

Ian F.W. Beckett Author Of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift

From my list on Zulus and the Zulu War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Honorary Professor of Military History at the University of Kent, having retired from teaching there in 2015. I have held professorial chairs in both the UK and the US. Most of my books have been on the history of the British Army, including on the First World War and, especially, the late Victorian Army between 1872 and 1902. Like others of my generation, I was greatly influenced by the 1964 film Zulu with Stanley Baker and Michael Caine. The Zulu War has always fascinated me so here is my selection of the best books on Zulus and the war.   

Ian's book list on Zulus and the Zulu War

Ian F.W. Beckett Why did Ian love this book?

Originally published as Rope of Sand in South Africa in 1995, this is a brilliant overview of the story of the Zulu from the days of their rise under Shaka to the tragedy of the Bhambatha Rebellion in 1906. No one knows the Zulu sources better than John Laband, who has written extensively on the war. He weaves Zulu oral tradition and contemporary European accounts into a vivid narrative of Zulu history. Full coverage is given to the Anglo-Zulu War but what I particularly value is the wider context of the contest between Briton, Boer, and Zulu that shaped the course of South African history.     

By John Laband,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rise & Fall of the Zulu Nation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published as "Rope of Sand" in South Africa, this account of the dramatic emergence and decline of the Zulu kingdom in the 19th century is the culmination of 15 years of research.


Book cover of Breakthrough: Corporate South Africa in a Green Economy

Najma Mohamed Author Of Sustainability Transitions in South Africa

From my list on justice and sustainability in South Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

While my childhood in a coastal community in South Africa contributed to my deep appreciation and love for nature, I was born and grew up as a person of colour in the apartheid era when barricades divided humans, the land, and the sea. I developed a profound understanding, rooted in my lived experience, of the interlinkages between justice, equity, and sustainability. I've remained actively involved and interested in developing and profiling transformative and inclusive approaches to sustainability from community to the international level. I've maintained this focus on the nexus between climate, nature, and inequality throughout my career, where I've led transformative and inclusive approaches to nature and climate policy and practice for 20+ years. 

Najma's book list on justice and sustainability in South Africa

Najma Mohamed Why did Najma love this book?

A great journey through how and why corporate South Africa is responding to the green transition.

It features case studies of leading national and multi-national corporations charting the sometimes bumpy road to integrating sustainability in business models.

From retail, energy, finance, insurance, and banking sectors businesses share the highs and lows of going green. 

By Godwell Nhamo (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Breakthrough as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book addresses hot issues pertaining to the manner in which corporate South Africa has engaged the emerging green global economy. Firstly, the book profiles the green and low carbon economy landscape in South Africa and interfaces it with global trends. This way, the book aligns very well in terms of the Rio+20 outcomes on 'The Future We Want' that fully embraces the green global economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. The rest of the chapters in the book profile breakthroughs from selected companies. The book also comes as the second in a series that is…


Book cover of The Conservationist

Lewis DeSoto Author Of A Blade of Grass

From my list on about life, literature and South Africa.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up during the apartheid era of racial segregation and oppression. A Blade of Grass was written with a sense of exile and regret, but also with love. It is not overtly about South Africa and apartheid. It asks a fundamental question: Where is home, and how shall we live there?

Lewis' book list on about life, literature and South Africa

Lewis DeSoto Why did Lewis love this book?

I read this novel in university in a course taught brilliantly by the scholar WH New. It was the first time I understood the complexity of layers in great literature. Ostensibly about a businessman who buys a farm, it encompasses race relations, power in all its guises, sexuality, relationships to nature, and how character influences personal destiny. Written with outrage and compassion.

I kept The Conservationist in mind when I wrote my own book as an example of what a novel could be, but more than that, it taught me how to think about the world in a new way.

By Nadine Gordimer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Conservationist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mehring is rich. He has all the privileges and possessions that South Africa has to offer, but his possessions refuse to remain objects. His wife, son, and mistress leave him; his foreman and workers become increasingly indifferent to his stewardship; even the land rises up, as drought, then flood, destroy his farm.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Zulu Kingdom, South Africa, and Africa?

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